A MAJOR development in the the centre of Bishop's Waltham has been approved by councillors against the advice of their officers.

The scheme comprising Fox's Garden Machinery, a youth hall and former NHS base, between Winchester Road, Brook Street and Malt Lane, will be replaced by 24 houses and a new youth hall.

City council planning officers were recommending refusal saying the scheme was overdevelopment with too much crammed in.

The applicants, Tom Francis from the trustees of the youth hall and Country Homes (Village Site) Ltd, said the plans had strong public support, with 48 letters, including the parish council. The 50-year-old youth hall is nearing the end of its life.

But there were 15 objections, citing overdevelopment and inappropriate parking.

Objector Vivian Jury said residents in the nearby streets of Brook Street, Malt Lane and Southfield Close were being ignored. "What is being proposed is too much on a small site and little thought has been given to the impact on the lives of neighbours."

A previous scheme for the site, of houses and shops, was also rejected for over-development.

Speaking for the parish council, Cllr Kris Ford said the scheme would improve the approach to the town centre and was "one of the most important development in recent years."

Local city councillor Steve Miller supported the scheme saying the current appearance detracts from the appearance of the whole of Bishop's Waltham".

Planning committee chairman Therese Evans asked why there were no affordable homes in the proposal. Adrian Rutter of County Homes said the Fox's site was previously a garage with diesel tanks still underground, hiking up building costs.

Mr Rutter told the committee: "If we can't have this massing we won't be able to bring the site forward. It is on a knife edge."

Cllr Evans opposed the scheme, saying: "I know this is better than what was refused before. I know residents are fed up with the dreadful dilapidation of that site. I go past the site at least once a day. It is in a dreadful state and I feel sorry and support a new youth hall because that desperately needs to happen."

But despite that she said the scheme was over-development.

But five councillor voted to approve the scheme against advice saying the public benefits trumped the objections.